Fractionals is the informal name for companies that operate shared ownership business jets, a service that is rapidly growing. An owner purchases a fraction, typically one-sixteenth or more, of an airplane and is entitled to fly a set amount of hours in that airplane or any of its companions in the fractional fleet. The fractional operator takes care of every aspect of operating the airplane from maintenance, insurance, fuel and crewing. The owner pays all fixed costs for his share of the airplane, plus the direct operating costs for the time he actually occupies the airplane. The fractional operators promise to pick up an owner with as little as four hours advance notice anywhere in the operating area and take him wherever he wants to go.
Is flying for a fractional a good career choice compared to flying for an airline? Well, with brand-new airplanes with the latest avionics, reasonable pay, schedules arranged well in advance and the variety and challenge of flying different passengers to different airports, what's not to like?
For the most part, pilots flying for the fractionals go to work in new airplanes that are the cream of the corporate crop. When the outstanding order book for Executive Jet Aviation's NetJets, the first and biggest fractional, is filled, the company's fleet will include new airplanes from virtually every manufacturer and range from Citation Encores to Gulfstreams to Boeing Business Jets. EJA has hundreds of jets on order, and the list keeps growing.
Flexjet, a shared ownership program owned by Bombardier, fields that company's full product line from the Lear 31A to the Global Express; Raytheon Travel Air sells shares in Hawkers, Beechjets, King Airs and Challengers for international flights. CitationShares, a regional but expanding fractional jointly owned by Cessna and TAG, is selling shares of Citation CJ1s, Bravos and Excels. And Flight Options flies a wide range of pre-owned business jets in its rapidly growing fractional fleet.
Once pilots are hired, the fractionals typically provide training to get them up to snuff and keep them there. Most have an in-house company indoctrination program and then send their pilots to FlightSafety International or SimuFlite to get typed on the airplanes they're assigned to fly and for recurrent training. NetJets has the luxury of a dedicated FlightSafety Training Center at its Columbus, Ohio, headquarters, which currently houses simulators for the Citation V Ultra and Citation X, with expansion plans for additional simulators. In addition to the FlightSafety training for its pilots, CitationShares holds in-house training courses in CPR, emergency evacuation training and customer service.
Pilots flying for fractionals will not see the high salaries that the few low-seniority-number airline captains pull down, but they can eventually expect to be paid a reasonable, livable wage. Some of the fractional programs pay pilots the same salary no matter which type of airplane they're flying; others base the pay on the airplane type. Flight Options, for example, pays a captain $4,800 per month to fly a Citation III and $8,333 per month to fly a Gulfstream G-IV. The second in command on the Citation III is paid $2,675 per month, while his counterpart on the Gulfstream pockets $5,000 per month.
At NetJets, first-year pilots are paid $29,000, but overtime brings the total close to $40,000. A fifth-year captain at NetJets is paid $5,082 per month. At Travel Air all pilots are hired in as SIC and are locked in the right seat for approximately one year. The starting pay is $32,000 (regardless of the aircraft type the pilot is hired to fly); first year PIC pay is $50,000, and the company pays overtime of $400 per day for all or part of a day pilots are on duty beyond the normal schedule. A captain flying jets for CitationShares will earn approximately $64,000.